February 7, 2014

CVS Caremark made big news — BIG news — when it announced on Feb. 5 that it would pull tobacco products from all of its pharmacy locations.

This is an extremely important step for the company as it sends the strong message that it is truly dedicated to helping people on their path to better health. Stripping away the roughly $2 billion in revenues garnered from the tobacco shopper likely wasn’t an easy decision but it makes sense — a lot of sense — for CVS. It clearly demonstrates to its shoppers, health systems and PBM clients that it is placing patients’ health front and center.

January 31, 2014

If you don't succeed the first time, try, try again. That's exactly what McKesson did when it announced that it reached an agreement with Franz Haniel & Cie. GmbH to acquire its entire holding of Celesio shares. And in a separate and subsequent agreement, McKesson also picked up the Celesio convertible bonds from Elliott.

Nothing good is ever easy. "While the path to securing this acquisition was certainly not what we had originally expected, it would seem that the interested parties to this transaction continued to see the compelling strategic benefit of McKesson and Celesio uniting to form a global leader in health care services," John Hammergren, McKesson chairman, CEO and president, said of the deal. "I never lost sight of the value this transaction will bring to our customers, our supply chain partners, the employees of both organizations and our shareholders."

January 24, 2014

Target is looking to open a new, smaller — much smaller — store in the base of an apartment building currently under construction near the University of Minnesota campus that will serve as a test for the new format dubbed TargetExpress, the New York Times has reported.

Clearly, the trend toward smaller continues. First it was Walmart Express and then CityTarget’s 80,000- to 125,000-sq.-ft. footprint, and now the even tinier TargetExpress. In fact, taking a look back at DSN’s “12 for 2012” story, which examined trends and issues impacting retail pharmacy in 2012, smaller formats were highlighted as one trend to watch. Obviously, it’s still one to watch.

January 17, 2014

The National Community Pharmacists Association shared a proof of concept study that affirmed the value retail pharmacy can deliver in saving healthcare dollars. Patients who opted-in to medication synchronization programs offered through their community pharmacy averaged more than 100 additional days on therapy per year and were 30% more likely to take their medication as prescribed.

At a time when health systems and payers are actively seeking sound strategies to keep their patients from being readmitted to a hospital, pharmacy could very well be their panacea. Sticking to a prescribed drug therapy script does just that — it helps prevent re-hospitalizations, which will be a key metric with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. The community pharmacist also sees the patients more often than other healthcare practitioners and has as many opportunities to provide appropriate course correction, if necessary, around a particular medicinal regimen if it isn't working. And medication synchronization augments the pharmacists' ability to keep their patients on point.

January 10, 2014

With the launch of Family Vitamin Center, CVS/pharmacy created a new health hub on CVS.com to help educate customers on the vitamins and supplements that can support their personal health goals. The site is designed to declutter the dietary supplement aisle with features like an interactive questionnaire and guidance tools that provide personalized supplement recommendations. It also allows users to shop by goal, such as heart health or immune support, and get the latest health tips. And perhaps most important, there's an automatic replenishment program.

It's a smart play. Those who supplement regularly fall into one of two categories — they're supplementing as part of a major lifestyle improvement change, or they're supplementing because they're already living that healthier lifestyle. In either case, you've got a consumer looking for — and willing to pay for — healthier solutions. CVS/pharmacy is positioning itself to be that solution.

January 3, 2014

According to reports, as many as 2.1 million Americans signed up for new insurance coverage that went into effect Jan. 1. However, even though these newly insured people had coverage, what they perhaps didn't have was the identification card to process claims, such as prescriptions, for example. But don't worry, retail pharmacy was fast to the rescue, offering those 2.1 million patients who had obtained insurance through a health exchange the benefit of the doubt and a 30-day supply of their prescriptions at no upfront cost once their coverage was verified.

December 20, 2013

Walgreens posted a first-quarter sales increase of 5.9% to a record $18.3 billion. Front-end comparable store sales for the quarter increased 2.4% in the first quarter, customer traffic in comparable stores increased 0.2% and basket size increased 2.2%, while total sales in comparable stores increased 5.4%. Prescription sales, which accounted for 64.7% of sales in the quarter ended Nov. 30, increased 7.3%, while prescription sales in comparable stores increased 7.2%.

Front-end comps are up. Prescription comps are up. Business is good. And that's not the story. Rather, that's the kind of results you can expect from the story. The story is Walgreens is priming a three-pistoned growth engine that will quite likely drive what pharmacy will look like in the future — an efficient global supply chain beast that feeds a front-end that commands traffic in its own right, and a back-end that demands healthcare payers pay attention to how Walgreens can help improve adherence and patient-care metrics. So, how can suppliers better align with Walgreens?

December 20, 2013

Top CVS Caremark executives gathered in New York City on Wednesday for its 2013 Analyst Day to outline the company’s strategies to drive long-term enterprise growth through its vast pool of assets and its nimbleness in responding to the evolving healthcare landscape.

It marked the third year that the Woonsocket, R.I.-based company has hosted its Analyst Day meeting in Decembe, but this year’s event no doubt proved especially timely since we’re just days away from the start of the New Year when health reform will begin to significantly alter U.S. health care.

December 19, 2013

Rite Aid announced its third-quarter 2014 sales Thursday, showing higher total and same-store sales and profits than third quarter 2013, as well as continued growth in programs like the Wellness store format, Wellness65+ and others.

The main story surrounding Rite Aid over the past couple of years has been its efforts to engineer a turnaround, but the message from Thursday was, "Rite Aid more or less has turned around, so what's next?"

December 13, 2013

According to published reports, Express Scripts may be looking to start a "price war" among the makers of the latest generation of drugs for hepatitis C — which promise much shorter treatment times than standard therapies, but also cost significantly more — in an effort to bring down prices.

The stakes are certainly high. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 3.2 million people in the United States chronically infected with hepatitis C and hence at risk for liver cancer, and the CDC recommends that anyone born between 1945 and 1965 get tested for the virus.

December 13, 2013

Getting the flu shot prevented a flu-like illness for 6.6 million people last season, according to the CDC. In addition, it prevented 3.2 million medically attended illnesses and 79,000 hospitalizations. Not getting the flu shot can have adverse consequences, such as not going on that long-awaited vacation. According to a Walgreens survey, more than 11 million Americans had to change their vacation plans on account of the flu last year, most likely among families that didn't get their flu shots across the board.

Getting the flu shot works. But how much has being able to get that flu shot at the local retail pharmacy influenced the number of people getting a flu shot? More people are certainly taking advantage of the service. Walgreens recently reported that shots administered at pharmacies and clinics through November were more than 6.1 million versus nearly 4.6 million last year.

December 13, 2013

A recent study commissioned by Intel revealed that patients are ready to embrace personalized care, all the way down to medications for their specific genetic makeup, and they want the freedom to get health care wherever and whenever it’s convenient for them.

Why is this important? Personalization — whether it is customized coupons and marketing or prescription medications — is here and will be critical in 2014. Consumers want more, and in the face of rising healthcare costs and a strained health care system, their healthcare is no exception.

December 6, 2013

McKesson's Health Mart pharmacy franchisees recently gained access to a tool that has the potential of giving community pharmacy a leg up on the competition in the coming years. EQuIPP, from Pharmacy Quality Solutions, does just that — equips independents with individual store data that marks the performance of their pharmacy vs. a national benchmark.

It's putting the pestle where the mortar is — retail pharmacy has the patient touchpoints and data-tracking wherewithal to make a material impact on patient outcomes. Important, because that's what the new year will bring — more and more healthcare payers looking to improve their own patient outcomes. And what better way to do it than to partner with outperforming pharmacies?

December 6, 2013

A study conducted among rural patients at Thrifty White Pharmacy locations in the Midwest and published in the November/December issue of the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association found that patients who received appointment-based medication synchronization were up to six times more likely to adhere to their therapies than those who didn't receive them.

Over the years, study after study has shown that pharmacists can play a crucial role in ensuring that patients take their drugs when they're supposed to and as instructed. And poor medication adherence is no small issue, as studies have shown it costs the country nearly $300 billion per year, in addition to contributing to poor health outcomes. It's been said that improvements in medication adherence can be the equivalent of a blockbuster drug, and according to the National Coalition on Health Care, self-management of chronic diseases could save $10 for every $1 spent.

December 6, 2013

Seattle-based regional pharmacy chain Bartell Drugs will open, in early 2014, retail-based clinics inside three of its stores under a partnership with local health organization Group Health Cooperative.

The importance of the news isn’t just the fact that this will mark Bartell’s foray into the convenient care clinic arena but also that it speaks to a much broader notion — 2014 will be the year of the clinics. Yes, we have said it before and we’re saying it yet again.

December 2, 2013

CVS Caremark is planning to acquire Coram, the specialty infusion services and enteral nutrition business unit of Apria Healthcare Group, for roughly $2.1 billion. Coram provides infusion therapies and nutrition services to more than 20,000 patients each month.

The acquisition is a significant move for CVS Caremark given the growth of the home infusion business and specialty pharmacy. Furthermore, it enables CVS Caremark to further leverage its “integration sweet spots” and is in line with the company’s strategy of investing in core businesses that will help drive growth.

December 2, 2013

Rite Aid announced Monday the promotion of Karen Staniforth to group VP pharmacy initiatives and clinical services from her current position of VP pharmacy for the chain's mid-Atlantic division. In her new position, Staniforth will oversee the company's strategy around the Wellness Ambassadors, specially trained staff who walk the aisles of the stores and provide information on health and wellness products and programs, as well as serve as a "bridge" between the front end and the pharmacy.

From the beginning, Wellness Ambassadors have been a crucial part of Rite Aid's Wellness store remodel program, and early on, John Standley, its chairman and CEO, noted that Wellness stores with Wellness Ambassadors showed stronger sales than those without them. As of the chain's second-quarter 2014, the results of which it announced in September, there were 1,700 Wellness Ambassadors at 1,019 stores.

December 2, 2013

Canada's Jean Coutu Group is helping to bolster holiday sales with the launch of its "e-store window" inside the Longueuil Metro Station. Commuters will be able to shop a wall of deals using their smartphones with delivery before Dec. 24.

It's not really an example of thinking outside the box, as much as it's eliminating the concept of a box altogether. It's an extension of the Jean Coutu brand name into a space typically associated with billboard-style advertising, only stoppers-by can shop the space as easily as they do in the store or online.

November 22, 2013

A new report released by Shoppers Drug Mart and Pharmaprix shows that the Canadian healthcare system could save C$1.4 billion to C$1.9 billion by expanding the role of pharmacists.

While there are some important differences between the healthcare systems in the United States and Canada, both face common problems, in particular, a rising burden of chronic disease and rising costs. But they also have in common a way to alleviate some of the burden on physicians and some of the costs: increasing the kinds of services that pharmacists can provide.

November 22, 2013

Walgreens on Thursday announced the appointment of Sona Chawla, president of e-commerce, as president of digital and chief marketing officer. In this new role, Chawla will lead a newly created Digital and Marketing Division, establishing a unified and integrated digital, enterprise-wide marketing, and customer loyalty and insights group to advance Walgreens “Well Experience” strategy and vision to be the first choice in health and daily living in America and beyond, Walgreens stated.

Chawla is a brilliant thinker and tech wiz whose e-commerce strategies have helped Walgreens forge new relationships with customers however they engage with Walgreens — now she brings that expertise to a global marketing role for the company at a time when digitization and big data-driven insights are bringing a greater degree of personalization to customer engagement efforts.

November 22, 2013

On Nov. 18, the Senate passed by voice vote the Drug Quality and Security Act, sending to president Barack Obama's desk legislation that implements federal tracking and tracing of drugs and strengthens federal regulations on pharmacy compounding.

The bipartisan bill, which has the support of such trade groups as the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association and the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, ties up a couple of problematic loose ends in the pharmaceutical supply chain, namely the so-called "downstream" supply chain, which refers to the path that drugs take from their manufacturers to providers and patients, as well as sterile compounding.

November 15, 2013

Rite Aid is testing a revamped beauty section in at least one of its Genuine Well Being stores, in New York's West Village. Dubbed Beauty Vision, the section features a wider assortment of brands, a spruced-up look and a Beauty Vision adviser who can help customers learn about various brands and products. The chain is promoting the new concept with a special event on Tuesday featuring Eddie Funkhouser, creator of the eponymous cosmetic brand.

Assuming president Obama's healthcare reform initiative works out - notwithstanding the rough start it's had so far - and tens of millions of uninsured Americans get healthcare coverage, it's going to mean a lot of potential new customers for pharmacy retailers. But while that will drive script count and get people through the door, it will also drive pharmacy margins down. This means retailers will need to do more to make themselves stand out in the front end, and one of the best ways to do that is with beauty.

DSN took a close look at Rite Aid's new beauty concept this week. See it for yourself.

November 15, 2013

Following a successful test run last summer, Target has announced the expansion of its Beauty Concierge program to nearly 100 stores in three metro areas across the country — making the program now available in nearly 300 Target locations nationwide.

Why is this important? Customers want an experience when shopping. And getting customers more engaged in product and experience with "brand-agnostic experts" is a safe bet.

November 15, 2013

CVS Caremark has announced the appointment of William Shrank as chief scientific officer and chief medical officer, provider innovation and analytics. In this role, Shrank will oversee the company’s overall research and clinical program development.

Why is this so important? Well, he’s a physician having previously practiced with Brigham Internal Medicine Associates. He also served as assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and served as director, research and rapid-cycle evaluation for the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. And what’s especially interesting to note — as highlighted by CVS Caremark — is that Shrank is “experienced in pharmaceutical outcomes research.”